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Marine who fought in Battle of Guadalcanal dies at 96

August 29, 2015 (Photo Credit: Courtesy photo)

The Marine Corps lost one of its last surviving veterans of the Battle of Guadalcanal this month.

The Honorable Edward "Cam" Farmer, Jr., recipient of three Purple Hearts, a Silver Star and a Bronze Star and former 60th District Court Judge, passed away Aug. 16 in Muskegon, Michigan, four days shy of his 97th birthday.

"He was one hell of a guy," his son, David Farmer, told Marine Corps Times.

"First and foremost, he always put his family first; no matter what we put in front of him, he would always be there for us."

Farmer joined the Corps while a student at Dartmouth University in New Hampshire, completing officer training over summers. He entered active duty after graduating in 1941, right before America's entry into the war.

The shiny lieutenant was sent to the Pacific in 1942 with the 1st Marine Division, which landed on Guadalcanal on Aug. 7, 1942. With the 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment, Farmer established defensive positions on a ridge protecting Henderson Field.

Edward C. "Cam" Farmer Jr, recipient of three Purple Hearts, a Silver Star and a Bronze Star.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of David Farmer

The ridge became known as Edson's Ridge – or Bloody Ridge – after Japanese forces launched a counterattack on Sep. 12. In the course of two days of brutal fighting, Farmer was shot in the arm and had a bullet graze his scalp.

"He didn't talk a lot about the war," David Farmer said.

"The one thing he did say was that he lost a lot of good men, these guys in their late teens and early 20s, and that when you're with someone in that sort of circumstance, you're really brothers for life."

David learned more about his father's experience one evening at a Barnes & Noble when Cam was thumbing through the book Bloody Ridge: The Battle that Saved Guadalcanal by Michael S. Smith.

Farmer saw his name while thumbing through the back index and showed it to David:

"Look at this: proof positive I was in the war!"

Following the war, Farmer attended law school at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, before returning to his home in Muskegon, Michigan.

He opened his own law practice and served as a trial lawyer for 18 years until he was elected as the 60th District Court Judge, a position he served in for 24 years before retiring in 1994.

"He was fascinated by the law, which came from his experiences as a Marine," David said.

"The ethics and the sense of right and wrong, attention to detail and its precise, regimented nature; I think it gave him a sense of control in an otherwise chaotic life: from the war to civilian life … it served him well right up until his dying days."

Edward C. "Cam" Farmer Jr (lower left) with fellow Marine Corps veterans.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of David Farmer

Farmer was tough as nails as a judge, but always fair and empathetic, trying to see the human element in others' actions, David recalled.

"He treated everybody equally and taught us to have respect for what any one person may be going through: good or bad."

"He always pressed upon us the need to protect each other," David said. "He said 'Semper Fi means always being next to that person to help them through' – that never left him."

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